Weight: 255 lbs
Hometown: Parts Unknown
Glory Days: 1995 – 1998
Fun Fact: Renegade’s fondness for loincloths – as seen in his introductory promo with Hulk Hogan and his latter matches in WCW – can be traced back to his pre-WCW gimmick of Rio; Lord of The Jungle.
For those old enough to remember 1992 you may also recall the infamous, and relentless, playground rumour about the other Ultimate Warrior… purple monkey dishwasher…
When Warrior returned to the WWF at Wrestlemania 8, complete with new haircut and slimmed-down physique, rumours abound that it was a different guy. A similar rumour involving The Undertaker would also do the rounds at various points in his career too. As it turned out, The Ultimate Warrior that returned in 1992 was indeed the very same guy that disappeared after Summerslam ’91 – i.e. Jim ‘Warrior’ Hellwig – minus a few ‘performance enhancing supplements’…
Mystery solved then, only one guy has portrayed The Ultimate Warrior gimmick… right? Well, let’s hold our horses for a second…
Fast forward to 1995 and Warrior’s old pal, Hulk Hogan, was embroiled in a feud with Ric Flair and Vader in WCW. Requiring back-up, Hogan promised “The Ultimate Surprise” at March pay per view; Uncensored. Hogan was scheduled to face Vader in a strap match, but to nullify Ric Flair’s likely involvement Hogan cut promos on the duo while a large man in a loincloth lingered in the background. The lighting used in these promos meant that we never got a good look at the guy’s face, but he was a big dude with big muscles and a mullet haircut. Hogan’s “Ultimate Surprise” was starting to sound, and look, familiar.
As Uncensored drew near we would learn that the guy in the loincloth was called ‘Renegade’. But hey, in WCW – where Earthquakes were Avalanches and Barbers were Butchers – we were used to seeing our WWF favourites undergo a few superficial alterations. Tony Schiavone may have told fans that the guy’s name was “Renegade” but ultimately most chose to hear a different name ring in their ears…
After Hogan had made his entrance for his match against Vader he found himself outnumbered with Flair present at ringside. Cue a familiar guitar rif and face painted maniac running to ringside to clean house. That’s right, all signs pointed towards The Ultimate Warrior – I mean The Renegade – in WCW!
After a substantial pop from the crowd, Renegade would hang around for the rest of the match to ensure that Hogan picked up the win and Flair was kept in check. In hindsight this was probably a mistake because this gave many fans the opportunity to deduce that The Renegade was not actually The Ultimate Warrior.
So the ruse only worked for a few seconds, so it must have died a swift and emphatic death… right? Well, not really. The character remained pretty popular with fans following its debut, even with many of those who saw through the charade. Maintaining his Ultimate Warrior look and mannerisms he also gained an energetic rookie gimmick and Jimmy Hart as a manager. He also began to compile a run of victories against jobbers and low card acts. He even managed to defeat former US Champion Stunning Steve Austin, who had seen his star fall significantly over the previous year.
Importantly Renegade remained aligned with Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, accompanying The Mega Powers to the ring at Slamboree for their match against Vader and Ric Flair. The following month our man would face the man who accompanied Vader and Flair at Slamboree; Arn Anderson. As luck would have it, The Enforcer was also the WCW Television Champion. Yes, you’ve guessed it. At the 1995 Great American Bash, Arn Anderson dropped his TV Title to WCW’s Ultimate Warrior rip-off act. This match also played host to the first televised appearance of The Giant aka The Big Show, who was sat in the front row and had a post match altercation with Jimmy Hart.
Renegade went on to successfully defend his title against Paul Orndorff the following month at Bash at The Beach and then again at Clash of The Champions XXXI. However, the wheels soon came off. Shortly after the real Ultimate Warrior – Jim Hellwig – revealed in an interview that he was not The Renegade, our boy dropped his TV Title to Diamond Dallas Page. He then began to acquire more losses and swiftly plummeted down the card. To make matters worse, he lost his manager at Halloween Havoc when Jimmy Hart turned heel on Hulk Hogan and joined ‘The Dungeon of Doom’.
After losing to Kevin Sullivan on a Nitro in November, The Renegade disappeared for a few months. Upon his return he had lost the face paint and was dressing a lot less like The Ultimate Warrior. Rumours at the time suggested the WWF had stepped in and accused WCW of infringing on their intellectual property. Unfortunately this new look did not transform Renegade’s fortunes and he fell further down the card to the point where his only PPV appearance in 1996 was making up the numbers in the 60 man battle royal at World War 3.
During 1997 and 98 Renegade reverted back to his pre-WCW jungle man look, but that did not translate into success either. Aside from a couple of defeats to Goldberg, his most significant contributions to WCW beyond ’97 were – ironically enough – as The Ultimate Warrior’s stunt/body double.
Sadly the story of The Renegade has a tragic conclusion. Following his WCW release in December 1998, Ricky ‘The Renegade’ Williams suffered severe depression and committed suicide on February 23rd 1999. He was just 33 years old.
All previous ‘Icons of Wrestling’ can be read here.